VANCSIK, Daniel -17
 DALY, John -11
 JACQUELIN, Raphaël -11
 ROCK, Robert -11
 AIKEN, Thomas -10
 MOLINARI, Francesco -9
 BJÖRN, Thomas -9
 MAYBIN, Gareth -9
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10/05/2009  05:10 PM
Vancsik wins BMW Italian Open
Daniel Vancsik produced a dazzling six under par round
10/05/2009  02:07 PM
Vancsik extends lead
Daniel Vancsik birdied two of his first four holes
European Tour Race to Dubai
 History of the Italian Open
It is one of the oldest and most charming European Tour tournaments, since it has always appealed players for its unmistakable ?Italian style? and the unparalleled choreography of a country where nature, culture and art merge. The history of the Italian Open starts in 1925 when three real gentlemen, dressed up with suit and tie, showed up on the starting tee of Alpino di Stresa. Luigi Prette and English William H. Jolly took off their suits, while Francesco Pasquali buttoned it up carefully before making the perfect swings that brought him to win with 154 strokes, versus Jolly?s 155; Prette did not record his score. Probably Pasquali has realized having accomplished a real exploit only with time, since he was the only Italian to win something in the pre-war period. After him, not so many Italian professionals have won the tournament: Aldo Casera (1948), Ugo Grappasonni (1950-1954), Baldovino Dassù (1976), Massimo Mannelli (1980) and Francesco Molinari (2006).

The second edition produced a great natural talent, French August Boyer, born in Cagnes-sur-Mer, who in 1926, at 18, became the youngest ever winner of the tournament, even if the official statistics of the European Tour assign this record to Molinari (aged 23,180 days); indeed, official statistics were drawn up in 1972, when the body handling the activities of continental professionals was established. Boyer won the title other three times (1928, 1930, 1931), setting the record of a success that Belgian Flory Van (1938-1947-1953-1955) was to equal later, and in other four occasions was a runner-up. He was a very precise and technical player who made up for the length of the tee with an extraordinary short game.

In 1927, still in Stresa, the title went to English Percy Alliss who gave an encore in 1935 in Sanremo closing with 262 strokes. That is the lowest ever score, but official records assign the exploit to South African Hennie Otto with 263 strokes of last year at Castello di Tolcinasco. Every denied record is matched by a record that will go down in history: the name of Percy Alliss is linked to the only double success in a family since his son Peter won the tournament in 1958 in Varese.

Among winners of the Italian Open before World War I we list French Aubrey Basil Boomer (1932) and Marcel Dallemagne (1937) whom British, who have never showed much modesty, considered as the one of the very few continental professionals who could beat British players. Henry Cotton deserves a chapter for himself not only since he was renowned and had won two British Open tournaments, that appeared on his prize records when he showed up at the Sestrieres course (1935), but also because of the operation launched by the clairvoyant senator Agnelli, Gianni?s grandfather, the first linked to golf-related tourism. The senator was convinced that Cotton?s success was to draw wealthy British tourist golf players to the Alpine course where their favorite player had prevailed. Everything went perfectly: the champion won without any difficulty and the profitable flow of visitors from Great Britain set out; unfortunately the winds of war stopped it.

In 1938 Flory Van Donck won the title at the 13th edition, the last before war. He lived up to his reputation as gentleman and in 1947 felt bound to protect his title in Sanremo where he won two titles and disappointed Aldo Casera?s hopes. This second rank was a straw in the wind: from then on until 1960 a very good period for the ?azzurri? players was to be remembered as the best in history.

Casera did strike home together with Ugo Grappasonni, who, after the exploit in Rome, gave the encore four years later at Villa d'Este. They were two of the renowned ?Three Musketeers? with Alfonso Angelini, who did not succeed but was runner-up four times. Runners-up were also Casera (twice), Grappasonni and Pietro Manca, the "teacher" as he was called by his pupils, a great master who spent his entire life at Roma Acquasanta.

From 1961 to 1970 the Italian Open was cancelled and recommenced in 1971 with the success at Garlenda of Ramon Sota, Severiano Ballesteros? uncle, who never coached the nephew because of family conflicts.

The tournament was a launching pad for young talents, then become great champions, like English Tony Jacklin and Mark James, Scottish Brian Barnes and Sandy Lyle, Spanish José Maria Cañizares and German Bernhard Langer who won in Florence (1983) a playoff match that went down in history versus Severiano Ballesteros and Ken Brown, the idol of young ladies. There were also two extraordinary performances of Baldovino Dassù (1976) and Massimo Mannelli (1980) who brought the last two titles to Italy before the big privation that Francesco Molinari interrupted in 2006.

Baldovino Dassù won at Is Molas in record times: he became the youngest ever winner (aged 23, 335 days), he was the first to lead the match from the first round (then matched by Cañizares in 1981, by Sam Torrance in 1987 and by Richard Boxall in 1990) and still holds the record of the highest lead (Spanish Manuel Piñero and English Carl Mason ranked 2) of 8 strokes.

In 1980 Mannelli, on the roman course of Acquasanta where he was born from the golf viewpoint, outdistanced John Bland, the many-sided South African champion, also a rugby champion, and Ken Brown, by 5 lengths.

From 1988 to 1994 the Italian Open followed a new line since the then-promoter recruited well-known champions. In Monticello, it was the turn of Greg Norman, who had already taken part in the tournament as a young player. Italy and Ferrari kept him occupied ? he went to Maranello to buy a ?rossa? in between rounds ? and he had a miracle win over Craig Parry at the final. Promomax, of the late Mario Pinzi, then bet on Seve Ballesteros and José Maria Olazabal, but the two Spanish players were unlucky. The outsiders won over champions: Ronan Raffery (1989), Richard Boxall (1990) who won that unique success sending Olazabal crazy, Craig Parry (1991), who beat Ian Woosnam who had shown up at Castelconturbia wearing his green suit of the Masters and where the third rank was given to a great Costantino Rocca. Sandy Lyle (1992) gave his encore and made his swan song when John Daly drew the attention of everybody since the practice ground of Monticello seemed to be too short; New Zealander Greg Turner (1993) was a surprise on the Fiftieth Anniversary of Modena but this very particular phase ended up in Rome, on the course of Marco Simone, with the success of Argentinean Edoardo Romero, a sports and fair play champion much beloved by Italian fans.

The after-Promomax started with the novelty of the free admission at Le Rovedine in 1995: it was a crowded tournament but there was a bit of a disappointment when in the final round Sam Torrance erased Costantino Rocca?s hopes. The Bergamo-born player had never been so close to the title and ranked third, even after José Rivero, and accompanied by a promising and determined young Emanuele Canonica.

In a time when young talents have arisen, Langer won his second title (Gardagolf, 1997) and the great edition of the Circolo Golf Torino, on the Fiat?s centenary, proved to be a great media success even if the winner was Dean Robertson (1999), who rapidly disappeared afterwards.

The double win of English Ian Poulter (2000-2002), who then turned to be an excellent player arriving as high as to the Ryder Cup, pre-empted the present phase of the Italian Open managed by the Italian Golf Federation and the European Tour since 2003. The successful start at Gardagolf, with Ballesteros and Colin Montgomerie and the success of Swedish Mathias Gronberg, then gone to the American tour, was followed by the 5-year editions at Castello di Tolcinasco G&CC marked by very good courses, important winners like Graeme McDowell (2004) and Gonzalo Fernandez Castaño (2007) and the long awaited for win by Italian Francesco Molinari in 2006. On that May Sunday that exploit was followed by almost ten thousand crazy fans to whom he gave a spectacular performance and became the youngest ever winner setting the lowest score in the tournament with 285 strokes: a record that was beaten by Hennie Otto one year after. The South African player will then protect his title in Turin, on the Royal Park I Roveri course where, together with the ?first time? of the course, the new Title Partner, the prestigious German car manufacturer, BMW, will have a new beginning.  

Nicola Montanaro